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10 Tips for Aspiring Blind Yogis

Yoga is a rewarding form of mental and physical exercise that can lead to less stress, better sleep, and an increase in overall health. Have you ever wanted to give yoga a try, but feel a little intimidated by crowded yoga classes and people bending themselves into pretzels? Have you ever wanted to know the exact yoga poses but didn’t have a non-visual way to find out?

We have yoga classes for students of all levels at the LightHouse. Join our regularly scheduled yoga classes with Kimm Ropicky on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the Fitness Studio. We also have a new monthly Saturday workshop with Health and Wellness Coordinator Amber Sherrard, with each session focusing on a different aspect of practicing yoga. This month on March 24, join Amber for “The Art of Inversion: Getting Upside Down.”

Here are ten tips from Amber’s own experience as a blind yoga lover to get you started. She is a registered yoga teacher and loves teaching new students!

Be open to trying something new.

It was once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Sometimes our biggest blessings in this life come from trying something we’ve never done before.

Simple does not mean easy.

Yoga is a simple practice. However, its simplicity is often mistaken for easy. Yoga is a challenging practice in many ways, but its benefits are limitless.

No need for fancy clothes. 

You don’t need fancy, name-brand clothes to practice yoga. It’s all about comfort. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident. You should also be able to sweat in your yoga clothes, so moisture-wicking material is recommended.

Be honest with your teacher.

Your teacher’s job is to make sure that you are practicing safely.  Be honest with them about how certain poses feel, how long you’ve been practicing yoga, and what previous injuries you may have. Your yoga teacher is trained to modify your yoga practice accordingly. Another great tip is to speak with your instructor before class. Let them know that you are blind and that you will need them to be very descriptive. Yoga teachers are naturally descriptive, however, letting them know your are blind will give them an extra reminder to choose their words wisely. Also, if you are okay with hands-on adjustments, let your teacher know.  Hands-on adjustments are a great way to understand how the pose should look and feel in your body.

Discomfort is good, pain is not.

Discomfort is good, pain is not: yoga is designed to drive us right past the place of comfort, which strengthens us physically and mentally.  Its apart of the challenge, charm, and, appeal of a consistent yoga practice. However, if you ever ever feel pain, always back out and let your instructor know. The good thing about yoga postures is that they can be modified in a variety of ways to make the benefits accessible to everyone.

Yoga teachers love questions.

People often feel afraid to ask questions before or after a yoga class. It’s perfectly fine to ask your teachers questions about anything that was covered in class. They will gladly give you clarification on anything that seems fuzzy or unclear, so ask away!

Give it another try.

Many people try yoga one time and make a decision right away to either continue their practice or never try it again. With the vast array of yoga types, styles, and teachers, its always worth giving it another try.

Resist the urge to compare.

Yoga is not a competition. Every practitioner is on their own journey. The more you practice, the more you evolve. A wise yogi once said, “Practice and all is coming.”

Be kind to yourself.

Yoga is different from any other type of exercise. It strengthens more than just the physical body. With that being said, it’s easy to forget that in yoga, pain is not gain. Be kind to yourself and take your practice one breath at a time. Which leads to my final tip…

Don’t forget to breathe.

Let’s be honest.  Sometimes not being able to see can be frustrating and sometimes trying something new can seem scary, but “without breath, there is no yoga” so just remember to breathe.

Questions? Feel free to send Amber an email at asherrard@lighthouse-sf.org. She would love the hear from you!

Mark Your Calendars for San Francisco PRIDE 2018

We are excited to announce that LightHouse will march in the 48th annual San Francisco Pride Parade on Sunday, June 24th! The San Francisco Pride Parade’s mission is to educate the world, commemorate LGBT+ heritage, celebrate LGBT+ culture, and liberate LGBT+ people. This aligns with LightHouse’s mission to promote equality and self-reliance for people who are blind or visually impaired, and promotes the visibility of LGBT+ blind and disabled people.

The LightHouse is committed to inclusivity. Blindness intersects with every single identity, and we recognize the need to amplify the voices of disabled LGBT+ people and our community members. LightHouse is proud to open our doors and extend an invitation to all disabled LGBT+ community members, their families, friends, allies and the organizations that serve them. Join us as we celebrate the intersectionality of people who are blind, have low vision, have other disabilities, and the many community members who identify with both communities or actively want to support LGBT+ visibility. It’s a central part of our blind experience to be seen, be heard and to be proud of who we are!

Find out the many ways individuals can participate by visiting our Eventbrite page and signing up today. The first 100 people who sign up will receive a free Be Seen PRIDE 2018 t-shirt, to be handed out the day of PRIDE. We would like to extend an invitation to community partners to join us to make this a collaborative cross disability experience. For community based organizations interested in partnering with LightHouse’s cross disability contingent, individual questions, or help signing up on Eventbrite, please contact Laura Millar, Sexual Health Services Program Coordinator at lmillar@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7345.

For all volunteer related questions contact Allyson Ferrari, Volunteer Engagement Specialist at aferrari@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7320.

Make sure you sign up today on our Eventbrite page and #beseen with us, as we celebrate diversity at this year’s 48th annual PRIDE parade!

Microsoft Soundscape is a new way to navigate

“What is overwhelming about being a blind traveler? It’s not always what people think.” LightHouse Director of Access Technology Erin Lauridsen is passionate about this point: “Obstacle avoidance is not the problem, we have a dog, a cane and our blindness skills for that, The gap is knowing where things are and being able to decide what’s of interest.”

In her daily work, Lauridsen often has to shake her head at technology that misses the mark, but today is different. Today, Microsoft unveils a new free app designed not just for blind people – but by blind people.

In the video below, Erin Lauridsen explains the design thinking behind Microsoft’s new app. Click here to download Soundscape from the US App Store.

Lauridsen is one of the design minds behind Soundscape, a new Microsoft product which aims to empower blind people to not just get where they’re going, but to explore and learn their environment actively.

Read more on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog

Hired last year to start LightHouse’s Access Technology department in San Francisco, Lauridsen has built up a research and design consulting shop that leverages the blind experience to help mainstream companies optimize their products. One day it may be face recognition; another day, it’s designing a more intuitive interface or an advancement in ergonomics. In all cases, though, designing with the blind in mind yields a more competitive product.

Last fall Microsoft approached Lauridsen’s team with a product built upon an ambitious concept: a navigation app not based on turn-by-turn directions, but on dynamic, proximity-based landmarks and 3D audio beacons.

For Lauridsen, an app that promoted spatial engagement instead of rigid instructions and prescribed routes was a breath of fresh air. “The idea of having spatial and directional information floating on top, and taking some of that process load off of the traveler, that was intriguing,” she says. The next step was to find out if this technology would work in practice.

Download Soundscape from the app store

Microsoft brought the idea to a small group at a meeting of LightHouse Labs, Lauridsen’s monthly blind-tech meetup at LightHouse’s Market Street headquarters. Each month, Labs provides a venue for companies and individuals in the blindness and accessibility sphere to explore product-market fit, compare notes on emerging tech and express passionate, at times controversial opinions. It was agreed that the next phase of research and design was to get Soundscape into the pockets of real users, to turn the app from a good idea into an invaluable tool.

Today, Soundscape launches in the US and UK app stores on iOS for iPhones, and with it Microsoft has introduced a new 3D audio experience crafted specifically for exploration.

Soundscape, Lauridsen says, offers freedom for blind users: “It takes out the assumption that you’re following a proscribed route, fills in the information access gap, and allows for discovery and exploration. It’s not oversimplified or over complicated, as so much tech ‘for’ us often is.”

An image of a phone showing the Microsoft Soundscape app reads: "Set a Beacon and make your way there. Heading somewhere? Place an audio beacon on your destination and Soundscape will keep you informed of its location and your surroundings along the way. Use Soundscape in conjunction with your way finding skills and even your favorite navigation app to find your way to your destination."

Featuring an unobtrusive, roaming narrator reading the names of businesses, intersections, and points of interest in stereo, Soundscape is much more like browsing a neighborhood than any audio navigator that has come before. The Around Me and Ahead of Me features allow for more focused “looking around,” and audible beacons can be set to guide users gently toward a destination with intuitive auditory cues.

For Lauridsen and her department, this early stage design work is equally as important in making products both elegant and useful. “Our network at LightHouse is considerable – we have blind engineers, blind architects, blind coders – and what we like to build is ‘of’ those people, not ‘for’ them.”

Over the winter, Lauridsen’s team began putting the app through its paces, quite literally, with a score of blind user testers taking the app up and down Market Street and through the neighborhoods of San Francisco. Taking their feedback and synthesizing it, and delivering it in a series of intense meetings with Microsoft’s developers, Soundscape began to feel ready.

“Inventors often want to design things for us to be safer; I get that, but that’s design from a fear point of view. Microsoft designed this product out of an enthusiasm for learning, exploring, and finding joy in your environment. That’s the kind of technology that we like to see.”

 

Essay: A LightHouse staffer on what EHC means to her family

By Lisamaria Martinez

Last summer, I had the opportunity to vacation with my family at Enchanted Hills Camp during a Family Camp session. This is the second summer my family and I were able to spend a few glorious days atop of Mt. Veeder, in Napa. We hope to make this annual trek to Napa a family tradition.

I’ve have a unique perspective of camp—as a camper and as an employee of the LightHouse for the Blind. I first started working at the LightHouse in December of 2008, but didn’t step foot onto EHC soil until the summer of 2010. I really missed out those first 18 months. Camp is beautiful and breathtaking and a wonderful place for blind youth and adults to experience life, gain confidence by doing activities they never thought possible, and of course, it is a wonderful place to make new friends.

I’ve been to camp for LightHouse sponsored programs like our 2011 employment summit or our youth leadership retreats. I’ve also been to camp to paint fences, make emergency kits, clean out buildings, and many other beautification projects. They all have been delightful experiences. However, going to camp as a camper beats it all!

I am a blind mom and wife. I have three lovely children who are six years old (Erik), two years old (Zakary), and seven months old (MacKenzy). They all love camp (well, the judgement is still out from the seven month old). Children plus blind person makes my family eligible for family camp, so last year, my husband and I made the decision to try it out. Erik cried when we left camp because he wasn’t ready to go back home.

I remember Erik’s first camp experience at 7 months old. I was there for an Employment Summit and I was lucky enough to stay the night with my family. My husband and I were so anxious about his cries during the night and how he might interrupt the sleep of others residing in the lodge. I also remember our second trip with him about a year later for Cycle for Sight, and how absolutely fascinated and enthralled he was at the frogs and their constant cacophony during the night. He couldn’t sleep because he was amazed at the sounds they made. Needless to say, my husband and I didn’t sleep much that night, but we rode just fine the next day.

Enchanted Hills is a place where new discoveries happen and memories are made. Erik discovered soy milk because a camp staff person told him it tasted like vanilla ice cream. Both Erik and Zakary have discovered foosball at camp. My boys have learned to play with blind kids their own age. They are both sighted but aren’t around many blind kids; adults, yes, but not kids. My children have become more comfortable and confident about swimming. They’ve learned to tie-dye, horseback ride, enjoy hiking in forests, pick wild blackberries, make zucchini pizzas in solar ovens, and they have relished in the freedom that my husband and I have allowed them to experience in a place where everyone is family and everyone looks out for each other.

As a blind mom, I’ve had the chance to talk to blind kids at camp about growing up and being a blind parent someday. They didn’t know that parenting was an option for them because they didn’t know blind people could be parents. I’ve met parents who have blind children and we’ve talked about expectations and raising blind children in a sighted world and I’ve become a resource for them. At camp, I’ve hung out with other blind parents and simply enjoyed the camaraderie while watching our children run wild.

Enchanted Hills Camp is one-of-a-kind and I’m lucky that I can experience it both as an employee and as a camper. As an employee, I have great pride in a world-class camp for blind youth and adults. As a camper, I’m proud to share it with my family and I’m proud to see firsthand the excellence of the camp staff. They are all caring and fun and dedicated to making EHC the place to be.

Now, more than ever, Enchanted Hills needs your support and donations. To give by mobile device, text REBUILDEHC to 501-55.

No amount is too small or insignificant, and every dollar donated will go to ensuring that the coming years will bring new growth and opportunity for our home away from home. Donate here or contact Jennifer Sachs at 415-694-7333 or jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org and tell her you want to help “Rebuild EHC” to learn more about providing dedicated funds to rebuild and re-open camp to the public.

Our Blood Drive was so successful – we’re having two more

More than 60 gracious donors showed up at the LightHouse headquarters to give blood at our 6th Annual Bay Area Blind Community Blood Drive this month. We collected 56 total units of blood, which helps approximately 168 patients in need. We also welcomed cameras from ABC7 News, who did a terrific little story about the drive which you can check out below. Thank you to everyone who came out to donate and support!

Don’t miss our next blood drive on May 31.

Our annual blood drive is a much anticipated event each year, held in conjunction with the American Red Cross. We have so many eager participants that we often have to turn donors away when the slots fill up. Because of this, we’ve decided to hold two more blood drives this year, on May 31 and again in October. We hope you’ll join us!

The beauty of our blood drive is that blind and sighted donors are giving side-by-side, and all blood donated benefits anyone in need, regardless of sight. Though many don’t realize it, it’s a unique dynamic.

“The idea of a community of blind people rolling up their sleeves and giving back to a society that often thinks of them people as charity cases, well, it’s just great to give back in such a life-affirming way,” said Martinez. “To show the world that blind people aren’t just charity cases.”

And though many don’t realize it, it’s a uniquely equalizing dynamic in a world that often stigmatizes blindness to the point of misinformation.

“In areas around the world, blind people would not be welcomed if they wanted to donate blood,” said Martinez. “We know that blind people are a cross-section of society and that blood coming from a blind person is no different than that of blood coming from a sighted person.”

A heartfelt thank you to the donors who came out this year, we hope to see you again in May or October this year!

Meet Amber Sherrard, our new Health and Wellness Program Coordinator

“At the start of my childhood, I remember being happy, fearless, and free. But as I reluctantly grew up in a world designed for people to live with sight, I developed a deep fear characterized by tough questions with no answers.” Amber Sherrard has a knack for summing up the existential fear that can come with a major change in vision; and with Retinitis Pigmentosa setting in early in her life, Amber needed to develop a strong sense of who she was, outside of the level of her eyesight.

Before Amber began hitting the gym on a regular basis, finding dignity and self-worth through her ever changing situation at times felt impossible “I found bits and pieces of solitude in poetry, music, and theater,” she says, “but each time I was alone, the thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘why me’ returned. Deep in my innermost being, I knew I was called to a higher purpose, but when the negative thoughts and intense fear were upon me, it seemed like ‘someday’ would never come.”

Today, Amber is a powerlifter, a yoga instructor, and an incredibly motivating person to be around. Amber might seem like she’s got it all figured out to other blind people who find just stepping foot in a gym a little intimidating – but she started from square one, like everyone else. Amber also knows that health and wellness is about more than pumping iron, which is why in her new role at LightHouse, she is hosting regular workshops on healthy eating, yoga and inner-body exercises to improve the health of the “whole you.”

Amber remembers her ah-ha moment well: Fresh out of high school and on the first day of her blindness training program, her travel instructor, Arlene, told her about the gym across the street – a place called Curves. Arlene showed her how to get there, showed her the ropes and in doing so, eliminated the anxiety Amber might have felt getting to know a brand new gym.

The result was what Amber calls a “frenzy of independence.” Within a few short weeks, she was hooked, suddenly taking joy in a body that she once thought of as ordinary, now amazing. “I can remember people walking up to me and asking if I was an athlete or what sport I played,” she recalls, “those were my favorite compliments. I felt unstoppable. I felt as if my mind and body were so sharp and strong, that I could handle anything in life with grace, dignity, and ease.”

After graduating her blindness training program, Amber had a new mission: helping people find complete freedom, independence, and self-worth through health and fitness, just as she had done.

Amber received her bachelor’s degree In Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana Tech University.  There, she enjoyed a vibrant new social life and joined the Powerlifting team, competing in two nationals and one world competition, “I was the only blind person on my team and at nationals, but that meant nothing to me,” she says, “I was out to author and create a life that I loved. My entire being radiated with freedom, joy, and happiness and people noticed. For a young, single, black woman, who was legally blind, my life was extraordinary.”

Going on to become a Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician (NDTR) and a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200) Amber taught yoga full-time through grad school, eventually earning a masters degree in Health and Human Performance with a concentration in Health Promotion from Northwestern State University. Finally earning a credential as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), Amber wanted to turn her education into a new opportunity to mobilize a community in a bigger way than she had before.

We are pleased to welcome Amber to the team at LightHouse, and hope that you’ll sign up for one of her upcoming classes. Her next class is our first Saturday wellness retreat – a free 2-hour yin-yoga workshop from 1 PM to 3 PM in LightHouse’s 11th floor fitness and yoga studio.

Interested in learning more? Contact Amber at asherrard@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7353.

Be My Eyes introduces free, live video customer service from brands

Today, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the founder of Danish startup and longtime LightHouse partner Be My Eyes, sent a proud message to the network’s nearly 50,000 blind users. Starting today, the startup will sign on brands to a new area of the app called “Specialized Help.”

Beginning with Microsoft, who will route all their Specialized Be My Eyes calls to their dedicated Disability Answer Desk, Be My Eyes is making its foray into high-end customer service. But rather than pass the cost on to its blind users – one of the largest user bases of blind people worldwide – the enhanced customer service will be provided by brand partnerships, ad-free and with no strings attached for users.

“We love to see Be My Eyes trying new things,” LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin said Wednesday, “and we love that, almost five years since we met them, they are continuing to grow in ambition and scope. It’s imperative that blind users have the best customer service possible, and Be My Eyes has just given blind people worldwide a powerful new tool.”

Read the whole announcement below and if you haven’t yet, download Be My Eyes today.

Handheld iPhone displays the Be My Eyes app’s Specialized Help feature.

Introducing Specialized Help

We are thrilled to announce the newest feature in the Be MyEyes app: Specialized Help – a better way to connect with businesses and organizations when you need assistance with their products or services.

To all our Be My Eyes users,

As you know, Be My Eyes is here to help you tackle a wide range of visual challenges as you go about your day. Until today, Be My Eyes has randomly connected you to a volunteer to solve daily tasks. Some tasks, however, require specialized assistance.

Contacting customer support through email or by phone isn’t always ideal. Direct communication with a business’s customer support agent could be a more vision-friendly alternative and less time consuming for you. If someone from the company could see the issue in real time, issues with their products or services could be resolved more efficiently.

So we’ve strategized a way to better assist you: enlisting the help of representatives from companies whose products you use all the time. It’s our sincere pleasure to introduce Specialized Help. This new feature means that a trained company representative is available to answer questions or help you tackle issues with speed and in-depth solutions. Maybe you need help figuring out how to use an unfamiliar product, or you might want to interact on a company’s app or website while on the phone with their representative. With Specialized Help, it’s easy to get in touch with businesses and organizations when you encounter a challenge with their products or services. And as always, it’s completely free.

The next time you update your Be My Eyes app, there will be a second button added to the main screen to take you to the Specialized Help Menu. Clicking “Specialized Help” will lead you to the list of companies with representatives available to answer your call and assist you through a live video connection. Each business profile will include descriptions of their services, hours of operation, and supported languages.

Handheld iPhone displays the Microsoft company page under Specialized Help

Microsoft is first to join

Microsoft is the first company joining our platform to offer Specialized Help and maintains their mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more. Included in that mission is a program aimed at offering free technical support to the disability community – Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.

Be My Eyes provides a new and innovative way for our customers to get technical support,” said Neil Barnett, Director Disability Answer Desk, Microsoft. “With a simple tap, customers can access the Disability Answer Desk from their phone to get the help they need with Microsoft products and services.”

Be My Eyes is on a journey with Microsoft to help more people utilize technology as a means of empowerment to achieve more in their daily lives. Starting today, Microsoft agents will be available through Be MyEyes Specialized Help to users in Australia, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and the United States offering assistance in English. If you need help with Windows or Office products just give them a call.

Who Would You Like Us to Bring Onboard Specialized Help?

At the present moment, you have the option to contact Microsoft. Improving the customer service experience takes time, rest assured, but more companies from a variety of fields will join the Specialized Help platform soon. Your feedback is of tremendous value to us. If there are businesses and organizations that you may seek assistance from and would like them to a part of the Specialized Help platform, please let us know, and we will do our best to include them. You can simply respond to this email or write us at info@bemyeyes.com. It is our hope that Specialized Help will provide a better way to connect you with businesses and organizations.

Essay: A Google web developer on how EHC awakened her to the importance of accessibility

By Raisa Cuevas

I was 11 years old when my uncle asked me to accompany him to Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind. I would be one of few sighted individuals at this gathering, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I grew up assisting Uncle B while walking around the city or doing small tasks around the house, but this was the first time I would be the minority amongst dozens of visually impaired attendees. I was a bit nervous, but I knew that my companionship would mean a lot to Uncle B.

At the camp, I spent much of my time joining my uncle in outdoor activities. One of the first things I remember is him suggesting we go pedal-boating in the lake. “But Uncle B, I can’t swim,” I anxiously warned. The thought of getting on the water terrified me. What if my uncle steers us into a rock and the boat tips over? How will I save him, much less save myself? “We’ll be fine,” he reassured us. I had no idea where he got this confidence, but I trusted him and helped us put on our life jackets.

We pedaled away for a good hour or so in the warm California sun. The water was so calm that I realized how irrational my fears were. Just as were my initial fears of attending the camp in the first place.

Throughout the day, I was challenged with interacting with the other attendees. I was already a shy kid to begin with, so it wasn’t easy reaching out for a chat with people who I wasn’t sure I completely understood. Most of the time I spent silently observing the laughter and happy conversations going on around me. People were making jokes, singing campfire songs, and living completely in the moment. I envied their ability to be fully present and uninhibited while my own mind was busy trying to take everything in.

I looked into the eyes of kids my age and wondered what different challenges they faced in their everyday lives. I looked at the older men and women, noticing their wandering eyes and bright smiles that carried a confidence and wisdom which truly fascinated me. This camp created a beautiful sense of community between people of all ages and abilities.

I didn’t think of it this deeply as the naive preteen at the time, but looking back, I’m so grateful to have experienced this at such a young age. Through this and other life lessons from my Uncle B, I’ve developed a stronger empathy for others and appreciation for my own abilities. I’ve opened up my mind to new experiences, trying my best to immerse myself in them completely.

Building websites for accessibility

More recently, I’ve realized how strongly my firsthand experience with the blind has helped me advocate for accessibility in my everyday work. As a web developer at Google, I carry a massive responsibility to build websites that are accessible to people of all abilities, languages, and network conditions. It’s not easy to address all these needs at once, but it’s important not to leave out any set of users when your audience is in the billions. Thankfully, my close relationship with Uncle B has helped me understand the needs of visually impaired individuals and to think critically about the experiences of other marginalized groups, as well.

For many years, Uncle B has been an active member of LightHouse for the Blind, the nonprofit organization that runs Enchanted Hills Camp. Since 1902, they have provided education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals like him. Through LightHouse, Uncle B learned much of his professional skills that allowed him to start his own business. This was five years after our experience at Enchanted Hills Camp. And when Uncle B asked his favorite niece to come work for him, of course I said yes.

I was employed as the bookkeeper, and I assumed this meant being his personal assistant as well. Although I didn’t mind bringing him tea and coffee, ordering books on Amazon, paying his bills on the phone, or whatever random task he’d ask of me, I continually found myself fascinated by how much he was able to do on his own. I often watched in amazement as he navigated the computer with special techniques like zoom software, a screen reader, inverted high contrast, and handy keyboard shortcuts. For quick personal notes that he didn’t want to keep in a Microsoft Word document, he typed them speedily on his old-school braille typewriter. He labelled buttons on his telephone, keyboard, and other electronic devices with textured stickers to help identify the keys. He read books at his desktop magnifier, which zoomed very closely and presented the inverted image on a high-contrast screen. His level of vision was very low, but fortunately he learned to be effective in an office environment through the help of LightHouse.

Through most of my bookkeeping responsibilities, I spent a lot of time at the computer with Uncle B at my side, and he instructed me to write Excel formulas for his monthly operating reports and inventory records. He would walk me through the steps as if he was looking at the screen with me. On breaks, we discussed our love for technology, his admiration for Warren Buffett, and other topics that enlightened and inspired me.

The lessons I learned from Uncle B have truly influenced the way I approach accessibility in my work. By observing the unique ways that he interacts with technology, it’s now second nature for me to think of the needs of different audiences when it comes to building a website or other digital experience. I proudly speak up for these users when stakeholders or team members overlook accessibility requirements for a project. It’s rewarding to share this knowledge with my colleagues and see them start to understand the importance of accessibility, thinking about it at earlier stages of projects.

It’s easy to overlook the needs of visually impaired users if you don’t have firsthand experience, but it’s not hard to learn ways to be more inclusive of everyone. There are millions of technology users across the world with various disabilities, including visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive. These people are using your products, and many are intelligent, committed business owners like my uncle.

Rebuilding Enchantment Hills

I feel passionately for the services that LightHouse for the Blind provides, and how they helped my uncle succeed. I admire their commitment to providing valuable resources to the blind community in California and around the world. When I found that Enchanted Hills had been burnt down in the Napa fires, I was devastated. That’s why I donated to #RebuildEHC, in hopes of restoring this unique and empowering place of retreat. And in my daily work, I continue to advocate for an inclusive and accessible web.

Braille Mail: Get Your Tactile V-Day Cards at the Adaptations Store

This Valentine’s Day, give your loved one real feels with our new line of fun, touchable greeting cards. Our Adaptations Store is offering three designs, each with ink-print, tactile and braille designs on a white background.

  • Individual cards are $6, or you can purchase four for $20.
  • All cards come with an envelope.
  • All front covers of the greeting cards feature a combination of ink print and tactile graphic design.
  • The Adaptations Store and the MAD Lab will continue working together to design fun and creative accessible greeting cards that appeal to a wide audience, for all occasions.
  • We will roll out cards all-year-round. Keep posted for birthday, thank you, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day!
  • If you have suggestions for types of cards to sell for upcoming holidays, please email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.
A white greeting card features a 4 X 3 grid of ink-print and braille patterned and multicolored hearts.
A white greeting card features a 4 X 3 grid of ink-print and braille patterned and multicolored hearts. The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.
The inside of the card reads "Happy Valentine's Day!" in red large-print and braille.
An ink-print and tactile graphic of a tic-tac-toe board with a heart in the center, on a white greeting card. The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.
Red ink-print and braille X's and O's form the shape of one large heart on a white greeting card. The inside of the card is blank.
Red ink-print and braille X’s and O’s form the shape of one large heart on a white greeting card. The inside of the card is blank.
The inside of the card reads "Happy Valentine's Day!" in red large-print and braille.
The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.

 

Adaptations is the only place in Northern California with a comprehensive offering of tools, technology, and other solutions for blind and visually impaired people. The store is located at our San Francisco headquarters at 1155 Market Street, on the 10th floor. Store hours are Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with extended hours on Tuesdays until 7 p.m. We are also open on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.Although we do not take online orders at the current time, we encourage you to call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up or mail orders or email our store staff at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

Enchanted Hills Camp Back with a Full Camp Schedule for the 2018 Season

In a normal year, applications for Summer at Enchanted Hills Camp would open on February 1. We were determined not to miss out on Summer 2018 at EHC after the October wildfires. This year, after lots of hard work, creative thinking and tremendous support from our community, we will open applications for a contiguous, full Summer season at Enchanted Hills on February 7.

The truth is, the Enchanted Hills Family could not allow the tragedy of the Napa fires to rob our community of the experience of having a place for fun, understanding, family, independence and a place to unplug, tune into the joys of nature and gain confidence like nowhere else. Enchanted Hills is an experience that so many look forward to having every year — and though our camp is now operating only in upper and middle camp, we’ve taken steps to enrich this summer so that all campers will still enjoy the beauty of our location safely and with a supportive staff.

This weekend, EHC will reopen to the community that makes it what it is. There are still lots of ways to help, and we know you’ll have lots of questions, so please read on, and enjoy this special issue of LightHouse Lately in celebration of what will no doubt be known as a landmark summer for Enchanted Hills Camp. You will note that our offerings in 2018 will be almost exactly the same as we offered last year, thanks to our dedicated staff and community. Visit our website for expanded descriptions of each session.

EHC Summer 2018 Schedule

Cycle for Sight – April 21
Blind Babies Family Camp – June 15 to June 17
Adult Session – June 22 to June 27
Adults w/ Developmental Disability Session – June 28 to July 3
Family Camp I – July 5 to July 8
Youth Session – July 9 to July 15
Teen Session – July 19 to July 28
Family Camp II – August 1 to August 4
Music Camp – August 6 to August 12
Woodworking for the Blind: Fundamental/Beginner – August 13 to August 18
Woodworking for the Blind: Advanced – August 20 to August 25

What to expect

Below, we’ve answered some basic questions about what to expect in 2018 and how the summer camp season will be different, including answering your questions about health and safety.

Q: How is camp going to be different?

A: With the old cabins and bathhouses in lower camp gone,  all campers will spend the session in housing closer to upper camp, which provides safe and easy access to facilities as lower camp is in the process of being rebuilt.

We’re hard at work with some delightful and surprising options for our overnight campers. Some may rival our old 1950s cabins in beauty and cleanliness. Upper camp remains in great condition, and we’ll do all we can to maximize the camp experience in the areas that were not burned by the fire. Thanks to the hard work of Americorps and EHC site staff, a large portion of camp is not only usable, but in great shape and ready for summer activities.

Q: Is it safe to be at camp?

A: Yes. Over the past three months, we have taken every precaution to ensure that the camp environment is safe and healthy to inhabit. Working with PG&E, FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, we have removed burned structures, hazardous materials and continue daily work to return camp to its natural state. We’ve received sign-offs on our water supply, ttree program and smoke remediation. Every guest will sleep on new beds, mattresses and linens and camp is in process of being repainted and upgraded. We are proud to be able to offer a contiguous camp season in 2018 without compromising the health and safety of our community.

Q: Does camp have a reduced capacity due to the fire?

A: Slightly – but we will make it work. We are taking every step necessary to reapportion staff and students such that priority is giving to summer 2018 campers. You may want to get your registration in early, though, because with all the attention on Enchanted Hills this past fall, camp may be even more popular than ever. We expect to host the same number of campers in 2018  as we hosted last summer.

Q: Where will I sleep?

A: For adult sessions and family camps, your regular accommodations in the lodge, lakesides or 11a and B will be exactly the same, though with brand-new beds and other amenities. For many of our youth, we will also utilize upper camp to help with our housing needs. Several dozen youth may get to experience some luxury lodging in the form of ‘glamping’ yurts set in nature in mid-camp.

Q: I’m not a camper – but I’d like to help! What can I do?

A: Financial donations are still our greatest need [link] at Enchanted Hills. We estimate that our insurance will only pay 30 to 40 percent of the eventual cost of a rebuilt Enchanted Hills. There are many expenses that go into putting on a modified camp season, including scholarships and financial aid for students, which can greatly benefit from your donations. If you’d like to support us as we prepare to get camp back up and running, please donate to our Rebuild effort.

We anticipate that we’ll need waves of volunteers to help with environmental restoration of our beautiful camp. Everything from removing invasive post-fire weeds to replanting with native species, from beautifying trails to general carpentry. Contact Allyson Ferrari at aferrari@lighthouse-sf.org if you’re interested in helping out. If you’re interested in contributing in other ways, please contact camp director Tony Fletcher tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or development director Jennifer Sachs at jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org.